Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Coronado Concerts in the Park - Impostors

Hello Again. Neil Diamond tribute artist, David Sherry, returned to Coronado Concerts in the Park for another Hot August Night with his Diamond is Forever! The Neil Diamond Experience.  Spreckles Park was jam-packed for an evening of Beautiful Noise.

Our culinary theme, Impostors, challenged the group to prepare food that appeared to be something it was not. I'm a Believer in the creativity of our group. No Soggy Pretzels or Porcupine Pie, but we did have some dishes that went down easier with some Red, Red Wine...If You Know What I Mean.

I knew right away I wanted to re-create a salad of roasted beets, all dressed up like Ahi Poke. After tasting Chef Rossman's version a few months ago, at Where the Wild Things Are Food and Wine Classic, I thought The Time is Now.

Jeff Rossman is the chef/owner of Terra American Bistro, and he was kind enough to respond to my request for the recipe "I don't have a recipe, but all you have to do is roast a beet or two, dice it and, when you're ready, toss with a little sesame oil, sliced green onion, sambal (chili vinegar sauce), sesame seeds, soy sauce, and a touch of salt and pepper. Easy..."

And that's what I did - I also added a bit of seaweed salad to the mix (I used 2 parts soy to 1 part sesame oil for the dressing). Will I make this again? Yes I Will.

John, my man who is Forever in Blue Jeans, snapped this photo of me, looking like a Kentucky Woman, with Chef Impostors, Julie and Hillari.

Jack, with his One Good Love, Sandra, will never be a Solitary long as he doesn't wear his Neil Diamond shirt too often.

After deciding on my Beet Poke, The Last Thing on My Mind, was making a second dish. However, while getting a pedicure and flipping through Better Homes and Gardens, I came across this dish and couldn't resist. I Got the Feelin' John would love these Bacon Bar and Chorizo Stuffed Dates with Spicy Oaxaca Red Sauce. They may not have fit with the "impostor" theme, because I'm not sure what they appeared to be at first glance, but Lady-Oh. There's simply No Limit when it comes to chocolate.

The photo below is from Peace, Love and Chocolate, where you can also find the recipe.

And this is a photo of my Stuffed Dates.  See what I mean?  They could be small testicles wrapped in bacon...Come to think of it, Kai has been pushing for an Offal Challenge.

And the Singer Sings His Song...

You Don't Bring Me Flowers, Carmen, but you put me to Shame with these Coxinhas!  Coxinhas are Brazilian snacks, made with shredded chicken, spices, and Catupiry, a Brazilian creamy-style cheese, enclosed in batter, and deep-fried.  Coxinha literally means "little thigh"- and it is how chicken drumsticks are known in Brazil.  Sometimes, a toothpick is inserted where the bone would be, but Carmen took it to a more creative level with baby corn.  After a few of these, I was Dancing in the Street.

If I Lost My Way, I would want it to be lost in Carmen's broccoli forest!  On the outside, it appears to be a loaf cake.  Slice it open, and you'll see broccoli trees growing out cocoa-tinted soil into a savory sky of cake.  You can find the recipe for Broccoli Cake at Not Quite Nigella.

Just when we thought we might be Home Before Dark, Julie broke out her box of Ferrero Chocolates. But wait, intermingled with the chocolates were Salmon Cheesecake Truffles! Salmon from a recent fishing trip in Alaska...

Chris presented this stunning Pistachio Cake, which I'm pretty sure made Bradley Walk on Water.  It was actually wheels of Brie, frosted with Mascarpone.

Sweet Caroline!  We had Kai and Olivia's meatloaf and mashed potatoes masquerading as this Pretty in Pink Cake...

And Nina's Chocolate Cake with Raspberry Preserves, Whipped Cream and Mint, masquerading as Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes!

Ride, come on baby, ride
Let me make your dreams come true
I'll sing my song
Let me make it warm for you...

Can you hear it, babe
Can you hear it, babe
From another time
From another place
Do you remember it, babe...

It's a beautiful noise
Made of joy and of strife
Like a symphony played
By the passing parade
It's the music of life...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

French Fridays with Dorie: Cafe Salle Pleyel Sliders

Cooking from Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours, with French Fridays with Dorie, has become Around My Coronado Patio - French Fridays with John and Denise. Many of the recipes this month have made their debut for our Friday patio soirées. It's nice having a group of friends who don't mind being guinea pigs our tasters. I don't worry about it too much, as I've come to trust Dorie's recipes. For this week's recipe, a hamburger from Cafe Salle Pieyel, I opted to make sliders.

The Cafe Salle Pieyel burger was created by Chef Sonia Ezgulian for the opening year of the Paris cafe, in the newly renovated Salle Pleyel concert hall. The burger quickly became a bestseller, and was described by the cafe's creator as having "the taste of the forbidden, the illicit - the subversive, even." The New York Times used Helene's description as the Quotation of the Day. The article, In Paris, Burgers Turn Chic, can be found here, and the original recipe, here.

So, what makes this burger so appealing? For the American, it has a sesame seed bun and dill pickles. To appease the finicky French, it has a very French seasoning blend of capers, cornichons, tarragon, and sun-dried tomatoes. It also features a red-onion marmalade and shards of Parmesan. Ketchup is rarely served, and only upon request.

Thinly sliced red onions for the onion marmalade (the original recipes uses finely chopped onions)

The French Seasoning Blend

After a few pulses in the food processor
the seasoning is mixed in with the ground chuck and/or ground sirloin

Café Salle Pleyel Sliders
Adapted from Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours
Makes 8 sliders

1 medium red onion, very thinly sliced
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon ground coriander
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup oil-packed, sun-dried tomatoes, drained and chopped
1/4 cup drained capers
6 cornichons
1/8 cup tarragon leaves
1/2 cup Italian parsley leaves
1 1/2 pounds ground sirloin, chuck or mix
2 ounces Parmesan cheese, thinly sliced with a vegetable peeler
8 dinner rolls
2 dill pickles, thinly sliced lengthwise with a vegetable peeler

1. In a medium saucepan, combine red onion with butter, coriander and 1 cup water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture is reduced, about 30-45 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a small food processor, pulse sun-dried tomatoes, capers, cornichons, tarragon and parsley until finely chopped.

3. In a medium bowl, lightly mix meat with sun-dried tomato mixture and season with pepper. Shape meat into 3-ounce patties, about 3/4 inch thick.

4. Heat olive oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add burgers and cook for about 2 minutes on each side for rare or 3 minutes for medium rare (I cooked our burgers on the grill). Transfer burgers to a platter and top with Parmesan. Lightly toast buns. Place some of the  onion jam on bottom buns. Place burgers on top of onion jam. Cover with top buns and serve with pickle slices on the side.

French Fridays with Dorie is an online cooking group, dedicated to Dorie Greenspan‘s newest book Around My French Table: More Than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours.  As members of the group, we have purchased the cookbook and cook along as much as we can. There is a new recipe each week, and we post about that recipe on Friday. We are asked to refrain from posting the actual recipes on our blog. The book is filled with stunning photography, and personal stories about each recipe, which makes it that much more intriguing. I highly recommend adding it to your cookbook collection if you haven't already!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Coronado Concerts in the Park - Oodles of Noodles

Cellophane, vermicelli, bow tie, fettuccine, lasagnette, lasagna, egg, Shirataki, and Chow Mein...we transformed oodles of noodles into savory and sweet dishes for Sunday's Concert in the Park Challenge Noodles.

Carmen arrived with a huge salad bowl, and various containers filled with the prepped ingredients for her Thai Chicken and Glass Noodle Salad with Spicy Dressing. Max, Olivia and Sonoma were eager to help toss the marinated chicken, glass noodles, jicama, carrot, green papaya, mango, cucumber, bean sprouts, cilantro, spicy dressing, and peanuts. Carmen consulted several recipes, but said she relied on this Food Network recipe more than others.

My Sopa Seca de Fideos was another first for me. A friend and I were talking about some of the San Diego restaurant winners of the Silver Fork Awards, when I mentioned we had tried to find El Camino in her neighborhood. Turns out that location recently closed so the owners could concentrate on the larger, Little Italy location. Rachel said El Camino's Sopa de Fideos was her favorite. When she described it as a tomato-based noodle soup, I started researching recipes for our noodle fest. Quite frankly, most of the recipes sounded pretty bland, until I came across Rick Bayless's version with toasted vermicelli "nests," roasted tomatoes, chorizo, chipotle chiles in adobo, and queso anejo. Sopa Seca means "dry soup." The end result is not soupy at all, and the flavors are bold, spicy and wonderful. I made a test batch for our Friday night patio crowd, and it was thumbs up for another round on Sunday. The recipe is at the end of this post.

Alec's Fresh Lasagna with a Touch of Porcini, is from La Cucina Italiana. It's not a layered lasagna, but more like wide noodles (lasagnette) tossed with an amazing, deep, rich mushroom sauce.

Kai's Bow Tie alla Caprese was adapted from Giada De Laurentiis' Fusilli alla Caprese. He used bow tie pasta and added olives.

Sandra's Creamy Baked Fettuccine with Asiago and Thyme is also from Giada De Laurentiis. Fettuccine pasta is gently tossed with Asiago cheese, creme fraiche, Parmesan, and thyme, poured into a baking dish, sprinkled with a little more cheese, and baked until golden.

Kellee, and her gorgeous daughter, Morgan, made this lovely Pasta Salad with Shrimp and Snow Peas.

Nina's Agliolio Chocolate Lasagna, made with fresh, homemade chocolate noodles, chocolate mascarpone mousse, chocolate ganache, and white chocolate curls, took top honors in the dessert category. She was inspired by this recipe, but "prepared the whole thing day of, cut the cream in the mascarpone so it would be denser, and added a little coffee extract to the filling." We were wowed by her first attempt at homemade pasta! Chocolate lovers - this one's for you!

Carmen's Killer Kugel, from The New York Times, was the best Kugel I've ever tasted, with its bread pudding-like sweetness and texture, and heavenly walnut and cinnamon crumb topping. She added home-dehydrated grapes, which were pleasantly plump and sweet. We all agreed a touch of Cognac would make this even more decadent.

It's always such a great surprise when Mary and Geoff come down from Del Mar to join us. Mary shared two platters of cookies - Kristy's Ancient Chinese Noodle Cookies and Chinese Noodle Cookies.

Music for the evening was provided by the U.S. Navy Band Southwest - Wind Ensemble


Sopa Seca de Fideos
via Food Network
4 main servings, or 8 first course servings


2-3 canned chipotle chiles in adobo
1 tablespoon roasted garlic paste (about 4 garlic cloves)
3 pounds Roma tomatoes (about 15 to 17)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
6 ounces chorizo sausage, casing removed
1 (10-ounce) package dried fideo (vermicelli) noodles (try to find the "coiled" vermicelli or "nests")
2-3 cups low-sodium chicken or beef broth
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup finely grated Mexican queso anejo
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)


Roast the tomatoes on the grill, or on a baking sheet 4 inches below a very hot broiler, until blackened on all sides. Cool, then peel, collecting all the juices with the tomatoes.

In a food processor or blender, core and process half of the roasted tomatoes, canned chiles, and garlic to a medium-fine puree. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in medium-size pot (such as a 4-quart Dutch oven) over medium-high heat. Add the puree and stir for about 5 minutes as it sears and thickens. Set aside.

In a separate medium non-stick skillet, cook the chorizo over medium heat, breaking it up into small pieces as it cooks, about 10 minutes. Scoop it out with a slotted spoon into a small bowl, draining as much oil as possible back into the skillet. Set bowl of chorizo aside.

Pour about 6 tablespoons of the remaining oil into the skillet and return to medium-high heat. When hot (drop a stray noodle in – it should sizzle but not brown immediately), lay in about 1/3 of the noodle nests to fry until noticeably browned, about 1 minute, then flip and brown the other side. Remove with a slotted spoon, draining as much oil as possible back into the skillet, and drain on paper towels. Continue until all the noodles have been browned.

Add the broth, oregano, and pepper to the tomato sauce. Core the remaining half of the tomatoes and chop into small pieces. Add and simmer briskly, until the sauce thickens to the consistency of a juicy tomato sauce, about 5 minutes. Taste and season with salt.

Add the noodles to the sauce. In about 2 minutes, the noodle nests should be soft enough to pull apart. Pull the nests apart, then add the zucchini and the chorizo. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are tender but still firm, about 2-4 minutes.

Add cream, raise the heat to medium-high and boil quickly until the sauce returns to its previous consistency. Taste again and readjust the salt, if necessary. Stir in half of the grated cheese.

When serving, sprinkle with the remaining cheese and the cilantro garnish (I didn't use cilantro).


Monday, August 22, 2011

Snickerdoodles and a Day at the Races

John and I drove up the coast to Del Mar on Saturday morning, for the Gourmet Food Truck Festival and a day at the horse races. It was a mistake trying to do both. We were dressed for the Turf Club and close to 50 food trucks were lined up in a parking lot filled with thousands of people dressed more appropriately for that event - in shorts and flip flops. Whining the entire time while walking to the back parking lot in heels, and holding up the bottom of my long sundress so I wouldn't trip and fall on my face, I only lasted about 45 minutes. We managed to score some Italian meatballs at Mangia Mangia, but I didn't have the patience to wait in any more half-hour lines.

Thankfully, we were soon upstairs at the Turf Club, with cold drinks in hand, in time for me to win the first race on a horse called Include Me Out. Include Me Out...from standing in a hot, dusty parking lot, waiting in lines at food trucks, in heels and a dress. I don't care how gourmet the food has become out of those trucks.

This is where I really wanted to be...

There's no particular reason I'm combining a day at the races with Snickerdoodle cookies, other than the fact that I made them for one of the partners at my firm earlier in the week after he brought in some packaged Snickerdoodles and commented how much more he preferred homemade. For some reason, at 6:00 a.m. the following morning, I had a whim to make these cookies and surprise him. I think I deserve a raise - they were that good!

I don't believe I had ever made Snickerdoodles.  I followed the recipe posted by Jen at Use Real Butter, from Martha Stewart's Cookies: The Very Best Treats to Bake and to Share (Martha Stewart Living Magazine). I added 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and made the smaller version, rolling the dough into one-inch balls, which yielded 3 dozen cookies.  Mine took a bit longer to bake - closer to 15 minutes. They were done just as they started cracking on the top, and they puffed up beautifully. The inside texture is soft and cake-like, and the cinnamon-sugar ratio on the outside is just right.  A dozen went to the office, a few to Mom's, and the rest were devoured during Friday night's patio gathering. 

I'm sure there must be a race horse named Snickerdoodle, with all those other whimsical race horse names out there.